Since we have had bad experiences purchasing lumber sight unseen, and Frank likes to pick through the pile for the choice pieces, we opted to take a road trip to Atlanta, GA (the closest lumber yard with mahogany in the sizes that we needed). Luckily for us it was cheaper to rent a pick up truck, a hotel room, and pay for gas money to get there than it was to have 4 pieces over 12 ft long shipped to us. It also gave us a good excuse to skip town and see something new. While we were there, we stumbled upon a great Asian market, something that I have missed dearly, as we know St Augustine isn't exactly a melting pot. Frank was psyched when he found his favorite fruit...Jackfruit, which we've only been able to find in Hawaii and in the Chinatown in NY. Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that was the inspiration for the flavor of Juicy Fruit gum. It is native to South/Southeast Asia and it is the largest tree borne fruit with some growing up to 80 pounds. It's pretty cool when you see them growing in the wild (we've picked them in Kauai) because they actually grow out of the the trunk of the tree rather than the branches. They are related to figs and breadfruit, and when you crack it open, the edible fruit are yellow pods nestled in the spiky green skin. The pod surrounds a large seed and the texture is fibrous and almost rubbery. It's also pretty sticky as the shell of it secretes a substance very similar to raw latex. The fruit very fragrant, and the flavor is like a strawberry banana with a strong floral note. Frank likens it to eating a piece of the tropics. Yum. Frank was a little overzealous and bought nearly 20 pounds of it, but I forgive him because it's rarely available and we were able to share it with our friends here at the yard. I was also able to stock up on some of our favorite Asian snacks, such as shredded dried squid, lychee jellos, tom yum flavored deep fried seaweed, and sesame dried minnows.
|The monster frank brought home|
|The edible part of the fruit|
When we got it home, we left it below the boat under tarps for a month so that it could acclimate itself to the humid weather conditions down here before we could work with it. We wanted to ensure that it didn't warp and it was stable before gluing it up. After letting the wood settle, we had to figure out how we were going to plane it to size for glue up. Since we didn't have a planer, or a work bench, our yard was nice enough to lend us their thickness planer. We also borrowed a stand for the planer to help guide the boards through as 12' of mahogany is heavy for 2 people to feed through. Each board required several passes on each side to true the surface, and with each pass the beautiful grain of the wood would show through more and more. We went directly from planing to glue up and used West System Epoxy mixed with 403 microfiber filler for the lamination. We didn't have the required clamps, so Frank once again made his own. He created them using 2x4s and threaded rod from Home Depot and we spaced them less than a foot apart. In order to prevent the laminated stock from sticking to the clamps, we used plastic sheeting to separate everything. After the mad dash of laying up and clamping, we allowed everything to fully cure for a week before Frank began to shape it.
|Our work station|
|After a run through the planer|
Since he didn't have his plethora of wood working tools, in particular his beloved bandsaw, he had to get creative with cutting out the rough shape of the bowsprit. We used a chalkline to measure and mark out for the cuts and he then used a skillsaw to cut in 2 1/2" from each side. This left us a with a cut that still had a tab of wood remaining at its center. A borrowed Sawzall and handsaw were able to cut through the tab and though it was slow going, it got the job done. The underside of the original bowsprit has a slight curve to it which was not possible to cut with a circular saw, so Frank's way around it was to mark the curve and take measurements every 1" along the line. He then cut from the top with a circular saw to each one of the depths creating a grid pattern. The chunks of wood that were left in between the cuts were removed with a chisel and it was smoothed out with an angle grinder and 30 grit disc. Likewise, the straight sides were brought down to their proper lines and tweaked using an electric handplaner.
|Rough lines marked and cut|
|Cuts made with the skill saw|
|Slowly removing material|
|Marking and cutting for the curve|
|Chiseling out the excess|
|The roughed out curve|
The tip of the bowsprit, where the cransiron fits onto, was another challenge as its cylindrical and the cransiron sides are inset into the sides of the bowsprit. To get the precise cylindrical shape, Frank first cut that area into a perfect square with the width of the sides being the inner diameter of the cransiron. From there, it was a matter of taking off the corners and rounding it all out. He went from a square shape, down to an octagon, then finally to a circle. The angle grinder with a 80 grit disc allowed him to fine tune the shape. When everything was all finished, he then used the random orbit sander to smooth everything out.
|Marking and cutting the circle for the cransiron|
|Old and new bowsprit|
|Cransiron finally fits!|
From there, all we had left was to drill the holes in the proper places to mount the bow pulpit and bowsprit to the samson posts. This was easier said than done. We were able to mount the bow pulpit in order to mark where the holes needed to be, but to drill blindly from one hole to another on a tapering surface was incredibly challenging. If the bowsprit were squared, it would be easy to just put it in a drill press and call it a day, but since the sides are tapering, we needed to come up with a way to see where the drill bit would exit as well as enter. We were unable to find any tools anywhere that would allow us to do that, so Frank designed his own. The concept is pretty simple, it's a jig that holds a drill bit with a sighting apparatus that reaches around the other side. It doesn't hold the drill bit in place, but merely allows someone to sit on the other side of the bowsprit and tell the driller which way to angle the drill and whether or not they were straying. Remarkably, we were able to get within 1/16" of our desired exit point after drilling through 7" of mahogany. This was not an easy task because a slight movement of the drill would drastically affect the exit point. We did a lot of practice holes on our old bowsprit, with Frank frustratingly yelling at me because I couldn't stabilize the drill enough to get it to not wobble. I eventually learned to brace the drill against my body and move my whole body rather than the drill when I needed to move up or down, or left to right. This was complicated also by the fact that Frank, the sighter, was on the opposite side of me, so his right was my left and vice versa....not fun for a dyslexic! We were eventually able to drill 8 holes in 2 days. Frank was very proud that I was able to drill through hard mahogany under those conditions because I'm not usually very good with power tools.
|Marking for the holes|
|Franks drill jig|
|Drill bit exiting right on target|
|Old vs new|